Sir John Kay is an economist whose career has spanned the academic world, business and finance, and public affairs. He has held chairs at the London Business School, the University of Oxford and the London School of Economics and is a Fellow of St John’s College, Oxford, where he began his academic career in 1970. He is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
From the pin factory to the iPhone – the complete history of capitalism
This lecture describes the changes in the nature of production and business organisation since the days of Adam Smith. Value is more and more the result of embedded collective intelligence, relatively less and less the result of material content. The iPhone costs fifty times as much per kilo as a pin. And it is a quarter of the weight and a quarter of the price of the first generation of mobile phones while having far greater functionality. The modern business is defined and differentiated by its capabilities, not its production facilities. And the division of labour, whose importance Smith so appropriately emphasised, has developed functionally and geographically to an extent that Smith could not have dreamed of. In this lecture I speculate on how a modern Scottish economist might describe the nature and causes of the wealth of nations.